*Sorry no photos are loading so this will just have to be a text only blog. I’ll attempt to upload again later!
*Photos uploaded when in America with wifi…to update this post- January, 2017*
Hello from Ethiopia! I have a lot to catch you up on and I know everyone has been patiently waiting to hear about my new experiences.
I hope everyone back home is doing well. I miss you all already! Nevertheless, I am in love with my new home. Ethiopia is beautiful, has the most hospitable people, and the food leaves nothing to be desired(yet). I’m sure I will soon crave American goodies…feel free to send any snack or goodie for me to enjoy or share with my new family!
June 30, 2014: Staging D.C.- This was a wonderful opportunity to meet all of my fellow education trainees in the US and get a quick orientation to Peace Corps. We had a lot of icebreaker activities and fun ways to get to know everyone.
July 1, 2014: Flight to Addis Ababa 11am- Our 12.5hr flight turned in to about 13 and seemed like an eternity.
July 2, 2014: Arrive in Addis Ababa 7am(Ethiopia)- We arrived in the morning in Addis, without much sleep, and began training right away. Experiencing jet lag, change in altitude, and all new foods was a bit overwhelming. We were advised right away not to drink, brush our teeth, or even open our mouth while showering due to unclean tap water.
July 3, 2014: Training, Hotel- We began training each day from 8am until 5:30 pm with 3 short breaks. We had a 30 minute morning break called ‘shy buna’ (tea & coffee). Our lunch breaks were an hour followed by an afternoon shy buna. We quickly became fond of our shy buna breaks. They serve coffee, tea, and lots of fried bread and pastries. Lunches and dinners consisted of many traditional Ethiopian dishes. Their main dishes center around a pancake like sour dough bread called injira. They unroll the thin bread onto a plate and then place small amounts of many different dishes on top. Ethiopians eat with their right hand, tearing off a piece of injira, and scooping up food. They have dishes called watt which can consist of many different things. They are like thick stews including chicken, beef, or beans. They also have a lot of spinach, potato, cabbage, and carrots cooked to put on top of injira.
July 5-8, 2014: First person to get sick!- Of course I was the first to experience intestinal troubles. I became extremely ill with a fever and major discomfort on Saturday. While everyone else went out on the town, saw Lucy, and got to experience various restaurants around Addis, I stayed in my room for about four days! Our Peace Corps doctors were amazing in treating me. We were each given a medical kit with various medicines as well as an assortment of antibiotics. So when I called the doctor, they could diagnose to an extent over the phone in order to begin treatment right away. On Monday, I had a visit from my PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) to run various tests and get a better idea of how to be treated. My roommate, Casey, was an amazing nurse and force fed me bananas, crackers, and my rehydration salts(disgusting).
July 9, 2014: On the mend- It took a while for me to fully recover and get back into the swing of training. Slowly I began to desire food again!
July 12, 2014: Travel by bus to Butajira- The bus ride to Butajira took about 3 hours. Everyone was a little nervous about meeting our host families as soon as we were to arrive! As we unloaded the bus and entered the hotel in Butajira, our host families waited patiently with name tags stating our name. As I looked around the room for my name, I quickly saw an extremely friendly smile! Abaye (meaning: my dad), quickly escorted me to our table to meet wendeme (meaning; my brother). My brother greeted me with an enormous smile. I quickly discovered that both my host dad and brother speak and understand English.
Family: After a quick meal, we headed home to meet the rest of the family. I have a large family consisting of mom, dad, three brothers(18, 12 &10), and two sisters (25 & 15). Also two relatives, both a girl (13) and boy (9) live with me. Their oldest son (18) and daughter (25) do not live with them but do spend some time at home during the day. It can be a pretty full house at times but everyone is extremely hospitable and eager to help me learn Amharic and Ethiopian traditions. The boys like to play cards, soccer, and color or draw with me. The three young boys (ages 9-12) tend to escort me everywhere I go. They are awesome and great company to have.
Housing: I have a private room inside the main house with a bed, two chairs, and small table. I have my mosquito net hanging over my bed, so I feel like a princess with a canopy at times. The house is surrounded by a gated compound, with a garden surrounding the house, filling the compound yard. Their gated compound keeps both unwanted guests and hyena out during the night. Inside the compound, we have avocado, coffee, and mango trees as well as corn, sugar cane, and fresh herbs. The garden is picturesque and has numerous plants we grow in Kentucky and many that I am not familiar with. We do have electricity, television with several movie channels (MTV), and a refrigerator.
Bathroom: The ‘shint bet’ (bathroom) consists of a hole in the ground with two raised slabs to place your feet(I’ll let you guess the function). They don’t use toilet paper anywhere in Butajira, so Peace Corps provides us with a roll a week. We have all quickly learned to carry TP with us everywhere we go! My shower is separate and only has cold water. I try to shower in the afternoons after I have been running around, so I don’t mind a cold shower.
Dress/weather: We are required by Peace Corps to dress professionally on a daily basis when attending classes. I have a pretty comfortable wardrobe consisting of linen pants, layered tops, and skirts with leggings. Females have to cover both their knees and shoulders to be culturally respectful. The weather in Butajira is pretty mild, with chili nights around 40/50 and warm days around 70’s. Since it is the rainy season, it rains sporadically, making some days cooler than others. When it rains, it pours! I love the sound of the rain here, rain on a tin roof, reminds me of home.
Nights/sounds: In Butajira, it gets dark around 7pm and we have to be inside by sunset. Not only are there no street lights to find your way, mosquitos and hyena come out at night. I find that I’m pretty exhausted by then and welcome the evening inside. The boys and I typically eat dinner around 7/7:30 followed by mom and dad, and then the girls. They serve coffee after dinner but I have to decline the evening coffee. I don’t see how they sleep right after late night coffee! I try to enter my room at about 8/8:30 to have some time to myself to study, write, or read. At night, the Muslim call to prayer sings loudly over the community. Monkeys scatter across the tin roof, stealing our mangoes, while hyena cry in the distance.
Internet/free time/schedule/Hill walk roads: As you may have noticed, my internet access has become extremely limited. This is due to many factors including limited wifi access, lack of free time, and inconvenience. Internet is only available in a few places in town and my walk to town is about 15/20 minutes with a huge hill on the way. Most of the roads are dirt, a few are cobblestone, and the main road through town is paved. Due to the huge hill on the way to town, I typically don’t want to walk all the way into town just for internet after a long day. My days begin at 7am(breakfast), 2-30 minute walk to my first class(8am) and classes end at 5:30 pm with a 2-30 minute walk home depending on where in town my classes are. If I am in town after my last session and try to get online, so does every other trainee, so we end up crashing whatever wifi was available. By the time I get to an area with wifi, it is about 5:45 plus a 20 minute walk home, making sure to get home by dark (7pm). It really doesn’t leave much time to get online. So if you do want to reach me, What’s App seems to be the easiest and fastest way for me to communicate. It loads fast and doesn’t require me to download whole emails or get on Facebook. I apologize that my responses are quick and filled with typos. I am usually having to respond to 5-6 people in about 15-30 minutes. I’ll do what I can! We had a half day on Saturday and have Sunday free…these are my only free days and are easily filled with household duties and spending time with my family. I have yet to make time to hand wash all of my clothing!
I hope this entry, along with my photos, help fill in some gaps and answer many questions everyone had for me. If you do have a specific question, email me on this website. Or if you have my parent’s contact information, email them so they can combine questions for me to answer.
Also, a quick THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me mail! I have received the most mail (by far) and haven’t even had time to read them all. I am spacing them out, reading 1-3 letters a day. They really mean a lot to me, I greatly appreciate it. Thank you: Tishana and Ken Cundiff, Lena and Avon Bradshaw, Sara and Lonnie Hodges, Kim Cundiff, & Shanon Miller. You all make me feel so loved!
Until next time…Peace.